Many new moms find themselves wondering about exercising while breastfeeding. Will it impact my milk supply? Will it change the taste of my milk? Will it affect the baby? How much is too much exercise?
Here are 5 important things that moms need to know about working out and breastfeeding.
1. Exercising won’t hurt your milk supply
Contrary to some opinions, working out as a breastfeeding mother does not necessarily affect your milk supply. Your body does use about 3-500 calories per day to produce that milk though so if you’re exercising a lot, you need to make up for those calories in your diet.
The best way to know if you’re eating enough to support your milk supply and your increased activity level is to pay attention to baby’s cues. If baby seems to be hungrier than usual, or more often, between your regular feedings, try increasing your caloric and water intake and feed on demand. Your supply should catch up and you can keep exercising… the human body is amazing like that!
2. Moderate exercise won’t change the taste of your milk
There is a very questionable study that made its rounds in the 90’s that claimed that babies rejected their mother’s milk if they were fed soon after their mother had exercised due to the presence of lactic acid. That’s not entirely true and it may not be an issue for you and baby at all.
Studies have shown that lactic acid levels in breast milk are significantly elevated for up to 90 minutes after intense exercise which can result in flavor changes. This has not been found to be true for moderate exercise. As long as you keep your aerobic exercise in the 80% of maximal heart rate range, your baby won’t notice a difference.
To remove the salty flavor that may come with nuzzling up to a sweaty post-workout mama you can simply wipe your breast dry before a feeding. We have lots of babies who nurse immediately after their mom’s Stroller Strides and Stroller Barre workouts with no complaints about the flavor!
3. Start by easing into your fitness routine
You may be eager to dive right back into a post-pregnancy fitness routine, but it is best for your body if you ease into it. Your body has just been through an incredible transformation and your hormones can be all over the place. You may feel back to normal but your body is still changing. For that reason, you should pay attention to your body and be aware of any issues like joint pain or tight muscles.
Some moms go right into a marathon or HIIT training and do just fine while others start with low impact activities like barre or yoga. Make sure that you’re doing activities that you enjoy and feel comfortable with and listen to your body. There’s no shame in starting slow and progressing to your new normal!
4. Keep feeding and pumping schedules in mind
When you’re breastfeeding, you may find that it is most comfortable for you to work out shortly after nursing or pumping so that you’re carrying less milk. Being a new mom is hard work and schedules can get crazy so don’t beat yourself up if you’re not able to get a workout in from time to time!
5. Stay hydrated
Of course, staying hydrated is always important, but it is especially important for moms who are breastfeeding. It’s easy to forget to keep yourself hydrated but if you start to become dehydrated, your energy level and your milk supply can drop. If your body is dehydrated, it will not produce enough milk so be sure to increase your water intake, especially when exercising.
As always, pay attention to your body. It’s so easy to not notice that you’re actually thirsty but keeping a bottle of water near you can serve as a helpful reminder. If you’re getting bored with plain old water, you can drink water infused with fruit to add some flavor and additional vitamins and minerals.
As you start working out, you’ll find what works best for you but these 5 tips can help you get started on the right foot. A supportive sports bra can help with comfort too- have you seen the post about Best Sports Bras for Nursing Moms?
Missy Currin is the owner of FIT4MOM Midtown Raleigh, offering prenatal, stroller fitness, run club and HIIT classes for moms in Raleigh & Wake Forest. Mom to 3 and a Women’s Health RN, she loves to share her professional and personal motherhood tips here on the Raleigh Moms Blog. She’d love to meet you at a class sometime soon- you can request a free one here.